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Eric Johnson to receive Icon Award at Abbey Road’s Music Photography Awards

The award is part of the world famous studios' Music Photography Awards, which launched this year

By Will Richards

Eric Johnson's iconic shot of Biggie Smalls
Eric Johnson's iconic shot of Biggie Smalls

Eric Johnson has been announced as the first ever recipient of Abbey Road Studios’ Icon Award as part of their new Music Photography Awards.

As announced back in February, the inaugural MPAs will feature the best and most striking music photography from 2021, as voted for by a panel that includes David Bowie photographer Rankin, Moses Sumney, Shygirl and Rolling Stone’s deputy photo director Sacha Lecca.

Johnson, a New Jersey-raised and New York-based photographer, made his name photographing late ’90s and early ’00s icons including Biggie Smalls, Nas, Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill and Aaliyah, alongside legends such as Muhammad Ali and more recent stars including Shygirl and Doja Cat.

The Icon Award is described as “a special honour in recognition of a person whose impact and contribution to the art of music photography is unparalleled,” and Abbey Road’s Managing Director Isabel Garvey said: “We have no doubt that Eric meets these criteria.

“We’re delighted that Eric has accepted the award as his work throughout his career to date has been some of the most vital and memorable in music photography.”

In a statement, Johnson said: “It’s super surreal being the first recipient of the Abbey Road Studios Music Photography ICON Award. I’m super low-key by nature and through all of these years it never dawned on me that after taking all of these pics that ultimately it would all come back to me. That people would be curious about me. I kinda knew that my photos would stand the test of time but being considered an ICON wasn’t anything I really thought about. Wow!!! I’m into it.”

He added: “Having such a diverse group of talented artists recognise my work is really what it’s all about. This is a curious industry we’re in. It’s been like a rollercoaster ride & this acknowledgement is such a high. It makes me feel like ‘Wow, I’ve really been right & onto something from the beginning & people are really recognising this. It’s AWESOME & inspires me to keep pushing even more. I wanna keep creating imagery that the culture really feels.

“I hope this all inspires emerging talents to try & stay as true to yourself as possible. There’s potentially something great just around the corner. Don’t sweat the industry like that. Keep working on your craft.”

Abbey Road Studios (Pic: Alamy)

Discussing the awards, Rankin, who leads the judging panel, said: “Throughout my career it’s always been really important for me to support emerging and undiscovered talent in photography, so the opportunity to partner with one of music’s biggest and most prestigious brands in Abbey Road Studios for this year’s inaugural Music Photographer Of The Year Awards, is massively exciting.

“Music photography is an art form that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, so it’s brilliant to celebrate those working in the field with these Awards. What I’m always looking for with photography is a connection with the subject matter and music has been one of my main passions for as long as I can remember, so this is a real thrill.”

The first Music Photography Awards will be held at Abbey Road on May 14.